Forget Brexit: Cameron’s legacy is a generation of ‘almost’ working

May announced at the conservative conference that she would be hiring ex Tony Blair advisor — Matthew Taylor to look at workers rights. For those of us working with people feeling the sharp end of the ‘gig economy, that’s the best hope we have at the moment.

Because alongside picking up Brexit, Theresa May is also dealing with the fallout of Cameron’s lasting legacy — an economy based on casual working.

This September, you could be forgiven for missing the latest figures for zero hours contracts. Very few of the mainstream media covered the incredible set of statistics recently released by ONS. During Cameron’s term in office, the number of people employed on zero hours contracts increased by 400% to 900,000 — with a third of these contracts going to 16–24 year olds. Now one in ten of our young people (8.4%) work on these contracts.

For anyone in any doubt about the negative impact of these contracts 132,000 Brits employed in this way worked zero hours and nearly a third of those employed on these contracts want more hours than they are offered.

At You Make It, I work every day with young people, helping them have a better set of employment and confidence skills to get into the work place — plus helping them find elusive work placements in their chosen field.

I set up the charity in 2011, to help those young women who have multiple barriers to work. Maybe they’re carers, have young children, have mental health issues or a lack of qualifications meaning getting a long term job is more tricky.

But the demand for our service has rocketed and the profile’s changed. More and more we are seeing graduates with no barriers to work — other than the work not being there for them. They tell us the same story. They started with aspirations to follow the vocation from their degree. With no contacts in that field, and no way of accessing elusive unpaid internships — nor being able to afford them, they adapted.

They started looking for work in an array of fields. And so it goes on, until they find themselves in pretty much the same situation as the women we were set up to support.

They are signing up to numerous zero hour contracts, alongside other temporary and insecure forms of work, spending endless days in the job centre when not working and never knowing where their next hour’s work is coming from. Or at least, only knowing two days in advance.

While this is going on, we’re reading more and more about the ‘fabulous opportunities’ the ‘gig’ economy represents. We can all make money from our living room/bike/care etc.

My plea to Matthew Taylor, on behalf of all the women we support is please get real about the ‘gig’ economy. For young people it is a fabulous lack of opportunity.

Asma Shah is the CEO of You Make It (www.you-make-it.org), a charity which empowers unemployed and underemployed young women with the confidence, professional networks, experience and tools needed to realise their voice and earning potential in their city.